How Domestic Abuse Should Be Covered By The Press

How to write stories without lionising abusers or blaming victims

Over the last year I’ve been increasingly appalled by the standards of Press coverage of domestic abuse.

There are two main problems with the current way the Press covers domestic abuse. The first is the lionisation of abusers.

This usually comes in the form of quotations from people who know them — but who obviously wouldn’t have known the extent of the abuse as abusers never beat their wives and children in public — who are struggling to marry their own impressions of the person they knew with the heinous crimes they have committed.

This type of copy often reads like so, with glowing epithets about the abuser:

Neighbours described John Smith as a ‘model citizen’ and a ‘loving husband and father’ before he brutally hacked his wife and children to death with a machete.

Instead this copy should be stripped down the purely factual and read:

John Smith brutally hacked his wife and children to death with a machete.

I don’t know why journalists feel the need to write utter nonsense fanfiction about domestic abusers and yet, time and time again, I see men who have murdered their wives and children described as ‘model citizens’, ‘doting fathers’ and ‘pillars of the community’ even though their very actions prove this was never the case.

The second problem is the use of the abuser’s own rationale for domestic abuse, implying the victim was somehow to blame or ‘had it coming’. For example:

Before murdering his ex-wife at her place of work, John Smith posted on Facebook how she had ‘turned his children against him’ and ‘left him for another man’.

Instead this copy should read:

John Smith murdered his ex-wife at her place of work.

The way domestic abuse is currently covered makes it more sociably acceptable and more likely to happen. It portrays abusers as likeable people who ‘just snapped’ or ‘loving husbands and fathers’ who just lost their tempers one day when we know that abuse builds slowly for years.

It also traps abuse victims in their relationships, unable to leave these supposed ‘model citizens’ who are beating them black and blue behind closed doors. It implies women are somehow to blame for their abuse when, in fact, abusers tend to abuse because they enjoy it and makes them feel powerful.

The Press are complicitly enabling domestic abuse and this must stop.

Thank you for reading — I hope you found my thoughts interesting. You can find me on Twitter: @Sayde_Scarlett

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